The construction and operation of buildings accounts for almost 50% of the United States greenhouse gas emissions. The US has only 5% of the world’s population yet we contribute almost 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 25% of the world’s prisoners, neither of which are statistics to be proud about. The construction economy and market has been transformed significantly in the past 15 years – through the efforts of so many around the world. But our great hopes will continue to remain stymied until our research can meet our aspirations.
The FIT Sustainable Interior Environments program which I chair, is a rare design program that focuses on research in design. We are in our fourth year, have graduated two classes and are starting to amass a significant body of important research in topics as diverse as “The Role of Delight in Furniture Longevity,” “Fire Retardants in Commercial Furnishings,” and “Healing By Design.” This year’s second year students have equally diverse thesis topics including: biophilic design in urban hotels, guidelines for plantings in office Buildings, an evaluation of the use of PVC in Pre-K classrooms, the urban and sociocultural aspects of green roofs and guidelines for water conservation in existing NYC office towers.
The program is a two year Masters of Art with a curriculum that develops proficiency in research methods, theories, and progressive practices applicable to building environmentally responsible environments. We are creating a community of professionals prepared to transform the environments in which we live, work, learn, and play.
Using New York City as a Laboratory
One of the many great things about a New York City based sustainability program is the ability to use the amazing architecture and culture as our laboratory. Most of the thesis research has focused on urban environments and the added benefit of lectures and symposia almost every week by the leaders of the field adds to the program. We took both classes of students to see Van Jones on February 9th at the New School’s glorious auditorium designed by one of my favorite architects Joseph Urban. Van Jones, the President of Dream Corps Unlimited spoke on “Rebuilding the Dream: Framing Civil Rights for the 21st Century.” He is also the author of “The Green Collar Economy,” which is one of the required books in our second semester graduate seminar. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Mr. Jones (a lawyer by training) is that he makes social justice issues very understandable. Some of the highlights of this talk included:
Last year was a great year to identify problems. This year needs to be the year to identify solutions.We have to close prison doors, and open doors of opportunity into a new green economy through a left/ right alliance. This talk focused on the problems with our prisons and he noted that more black people are in prison for nonviolent offenses now than were ever slaves. While his earlier book encouraged the transitioning of our labor force to “green collar jobs” primarily retrofitting existing and historic buildings, this new focus of his encourages the use of our labor force for technology. The economy needs to embrace the green fields from all vantage points and identifying and creating opportunities to achieve true racial and economic justice with a green economy.
Our students (and faculty) were thrilled to be part of this dialogue. We are accepting applications for the program through March 15th and would love to welcome you if you’d like to change the world through your design research.
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